GuinnessLESS Meeting

You never know when things are going to go completely pare shaped on you. However, I think we managed to pull off an informative and fun evening despite a “no show” from our scheduled sales rep from Guinness.Luckily, the rep wasn’t bringing the beer! Instead, our host Ed Goracy of Hub City pulled some cases of Guinness products out of the warehouse and had them waiting for us — a the perfect temperature. Club Member Dave Rawlins took up the challenge and walked us through each beer. We started off the evening with Harp then onto Smithwicks. Next up was the newest addition to the lineup: Guinness Black Lager. Then onto the Extra Stout and the relatively new Export Stout. It seemed to me that the Extra Stout was by far the club favorite. Feel free to post your own impressions of these beers as a comment to this post!

A special thanks to Ed Goracy and Hub City for once again being a generous host to PALE ALES! I also owe a thank you to Dave Rawlins, Clay Spence and Joe Bair for their help in making the best of the circumstances. And of course, a big thanks to Dawn for great pics.


AHA Dark Lager Competition

Just in case someone is sitting on a couple of bottles of dark lager…


American Homebrewers Association
Hail to Hefeweizen Club-Only Competition Results are In

Who says that Hefeweizen has to be a summer beer style? This third Club-Only Competition saw 60 entries from 29 states competing in BJCP category 15. Thanks to competition organizer Brian Steuerwald and the Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) club of Indianapolis, IN for hosting the competition.

1st: Mark Beatty, Lincoln, NE, Lincoln Lagers, “Smarter But Not Weizer,” Weizenbock, category 15C

2nd: Aaron Fournier, Montgomeryville, PA, Keystone Hops,”I Don’t Always Drink Weizen, But When I Do, It’s This Dunkel,” Dunkelweizen, category 15B

3rd: Josh Jensen, Los Angeles, CA, Yeastside Brewers, “Hubris Hefeweizen,” Hefeweizen, category 15A

Next Up: Dark Lagers

Short, dark winter days call for delicious dark lagers! Entries for the fourth competition of the 2011-2012 Club-Only Competition year are due February 10, 2012, and judging will be held February 18, 2012. Entry fee is $7 (checks payable to American Homebrewers Association).

Entry Shipping:
c/o Doug Newberry
1215 Burnham Ln.
Batavia, IL 60510

Hosted by the Urban Knaves of Grain (UKG) club of Batavia, IL, this competition covers BJCP category 4.

For more information, contact Doug Newberry.


Time to start brewing for the National Homebrew Competition!

Mid-February 2012: Online Registration

March 19-28: Entry Shipping

March 30-April 22: First Round

May 4: First Round Results

Club-Only Competition Sponsor

Raise money for your club by selling AHA memberships through your club website! Contact Steve Parr for details.

American Homebrewers Association
American Homebrewers Association

The Monster Mash 2: Field of Hops

The historic porter group brew in Piscataway had it all – some 9am Pilsners, a stuck mash, and suspicious neighbors doing slow drivebys all day long! Piscataway had never seen the likes of it. Due to a supply chain issue, the brewing didn’t get started right away (hence the 9am pilsners). But once we got started, there was no stopping. That is, until Ryan’s stuck mash! Luckily, that was only a temporary setback. As you can see from the pictures, it was a small group, but in the end all problems were overcome with good helpings of brew, pulled pork (thanks Chef Ryan!) and some post-brewing hobo juice, also known as applejack, aka apple liquor, aka that stuff that Ben brought. The brews are coming along nicely, Ben Bakelaar just racked his tonight, OG = 1.058, FG = 1.028 for a 3.91% ABV beer according to BeerSmith. Dave Rawlins racked his last weekend and got an FG of 1.024. And so the countdown has begun to Monster Mash 3: Princeton vs. Rutgers…. and we all know how that one turns out!

The Monster Mash was a Brewyard Smash!

And by “brewyard” I mean the parking lot at Princeton Homebrew where 7 of us did a single mash to produce some 42 gallons of wort.

If you have been by Princeton Homebrew lately, you’ve probably laid eyes on the Monster Mash Tun. Its a 60-gallon, stainless steel homebrewers dream. The only problem is that we needed to create a false bottom to filter the grain from our beer. An effective false bottom is like a fine balancing act. If the filter is too course, grain husk will get through into your beer. If its too fine, all the grain will compact on the false bottom and prevent any water from making its way through the grain bed, resulting in worst of all brewing blunders, a STUCK MASH. So, you’d probably be thinking that we would pick a recipe to test our false bottom design that almost ensured success. Something like the brew we did last year at the Group Brew — a light saison with 9 lbs of grain per 5-gallons. Nahh, over several glasses of Hobo Juice at Princeton Homebrew, we decided the best idea was to Go Big or Go Home! We attempted to mash what will easily turn out to be the most difficult grain bill that this mash tun will ever see.

There were 17.5 lbs of grain for every 5 gallons of beer we were creating. And worse, 15 of them were brown malt — which basically pulverizes into a fine dust when milled. Setting the stage for a stuck mash.

Our false bottom combined high-end metal fabrication and items from the dollar store. Trenton Sheet Metal plasma cut a piece of 1/16 stainless steel and mounted hinges and stainless screen along with some 2-inch feet to keep it up off the bottom of the mash tun. And over drain we put a sink strainer over the top of an egg beater — no lie. Turns out our this last line of defense actually kept a decent amount of grain our of our wort!

A special thanks to Sir Al Buck and his magical box of stainless steel sanitary fittings, tri clamps and gaskets! And of course, this day couldn’t have been possible without the vision, cheerleading and Hobo Juice provided by Joe Bair of Princeton Homebrew.

Ithaca Raises the Bar at the Firkin

Wow, what a meeting! Brewery Rep Extraordinaire, Eric VanZile took us through a series of beers that ticked all the boxes — a session wheat beer, some gigantically hoppy brews and even a 2-year old Belgian quad. Eric’s been at Ithaca for seven years and seems to have had his hands in every aspect of the company. Its evident in just a couple of minutes of talking to him that his enthusiasm for the brand and his passion for craft beer is not something that was memorized off the company brochure. Eric is the real deal.

I’m not sure about you, but a certain brewery’s apricot beer kinda spoiled my pallet for fruit beers. I’ll admit, I drank my share of a “numbered” beer back in the day. I even stumbled on a six-pack holder in my basement just recently. But the beer never really stood up to the test of time for me. You know that album that you have such fond memories of, but then you go back and listen to it a few years later and you can’t imagine what you were thinking? Well, those VT fruit beers were my Stone Temple Pilots. I mention this, because I had never actually tried Ithaca’s Apricot Wheat until the other night. But, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed it was going to be some knock-off trick beer that was super sweet and with an over the top fruit flavor. It was very well balanced and had a surprisingly crisp, dry finish! Given its mass appeal, its not hard to believe that it outsells all the other labels at Ithaca.

Next up, we all dove into a huge pile of fresh cascade, chinook and crystal hops and rolled around for a half hour. Well, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. But the CascaZilla definitely left your pallet with the feeling of doing a cannonball into a pool of hops.

When we started planning this meeting over the Summer, I mentioned to Bryan Liegel, the owner of the Firkin, that it would be really cool if he could arrange to have a special Ithaca brew on tap the night of the meeting. I had no idea that we’d be pulling pints off one of only 2 kegs of Ithaca’s Outdoor Harvest Ale in South Jersey. There were only six delivered to the entire state. It’s a fantastic example of a hoppy American pale ale made entirely with hops grown in NY State. Do yourself a favor and get over there to try some of this before its all gone. [Edit: its gone!]

Next up was the Flower Power IPA. Don’t let the name fool you. This ain’t no delicate session beer. Its a big pale ale with an extremely hoppy profile. Forget about the trip to India, five additions give this enough hops to preserve it to Mars and back. Let’s call it a Interplanetary Pale Ale.

Another seasonal was up next — Cold Front is a Belgian Style amber. Belgian farmhouse yeast and some subtle noble hops really give this one an authentic flavor.

The last beer of the night was a really special one. The Excelsior TWELVE was a beer brewed for their 12th anniversary — TWO YEARS AGO! Yes, that’s right, we had a beautifully-aged 10% trappist ale to cap off the night. Speaking of aging, ALL of the beers we tasted were beautifully conditioned. None of those “green beers” that immediately had you thinking about how you should squirrel the rest of the six pack away in the basement for a few months.

Ithaca is making flawless beers with quality ingredients and bold flavors. They’re pushing the limit on popular styles and seem to be one batch ahead of everyone else. To sum up, Ithaca has their tongue firmly planted on craft brewing’s 9-volt battery and they can’t bring themselves to pull it off. Kudos!

Thanks, Eric! Thanks, Ithaca! And thanks Bryan for being such a great host to PALE ALES!

Visit to Harvest Moon Brewery ON the Harvest Moon

Yes, that’s right — the PALE ALES were at the Harvest Moon Brewery on the actual Harvest Moon of 2011.

And what a night it was. For those of you that may have skipped this meeting because you hadn’t been impressed with HM’s selections of the past — its time to give them another try. We sampled 7 fantastic beers on Monday! HM’s new Head Brewer, Kyle McDonald, walked us through each beer. Overall, Kyle is taking HM’s taps away from the English styles of their previous brewer and toward the German styles, but with some American influence.

MoonLight Kolschbier. There are no big malt flavors or huge hop additions to hide an off-flavor in a Kolsch. I knew it was going to be a good night as soon as I tasted this light, crisp straw colored brew. Kyle said he experimented with a batch of this at traditional kolsch fermentation temps (cooler), but the tiny flavor difference it added was not worth hogging up a tank for. Cooler fermentation = slower fermentation. So, this one gets brewed at traditional ale temps.

Simcoe Double IPA. HM filters all of their beers. But there was no filtering out the hop haze on this one! Big, bold and well-balanced!

MonkeyShine Weizenbock. Melanoidins galore in this wheat beer. But a fine example of the style nonetheless.

Lemon Sorachi Saison. I am pretty sure that we tasted a young version sample of this same batch of beer back in July at our Saison style meeting. The 3 months have done it a world of good! Its a whopping 9% and it tastes like a 5-6% brew. A couple of people noticed a coconut flavor that was probably the result of four pounds of lemon rind! Sorachi and saison were meant to be together.

Jimmy D’s Firehouse Red. This beer commemorates a heroic firefighter from New Brunswick that lost his life saving others. A portion of every pint goes to support a camp for kids with severe burn injuries. So, drink several!

Full Moon Pale Ale. Not only were we fortunate enough to drink this beer ON a full moon, but this particular batch was just shipped off to the Great American Beer festival for judging. I think we were all in agreement that this is a guaranteed medal winner. Good luck, Kyle! Our very own Dave Rawlins is headed out the the GABF to help HM pour brews next week.

Schwarzbier. Personally, I think it might have been a little too toasty for the style. But it was really chewy and rich. In a word, FANTASTIC!

This was a great night, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kyle for hosting us and keeping us well lubricated! Thanks, Tony (color) and Dawn (B&W) for the great pics in a very challenging light!

Kane Brewery Tour

Over 30 PALE ALERS trekked out to the Kane Brewery last night just outside Asbury Park. Michael, Glenn, and Clay were on hand to take us on a tour of their 7,500 square foot brewhouse. According to Michael Kane, it was exactly a year ago that they signed their lease and started retrofitting the building and installing equipment.

Kane has a 20-barrel system with a 25-barrel mash/lauter tun — giving them room for some big beers. Their fermenters are 40 barrels, so every brew day is a “double batcher.” Their system was designed and built by DME in Canada. But it seemed like the installer that DME sent down was worth his weight in gold. In addition to helping them plan for expansion and future improvements, his technical understanding of the power and plumbing requirements was invaluable to Kane’s subcontractors.

According to the brewer, Clay, the steam jacket system they have is so fast and efficient that the kettle is at a full boil as its being filled! And the boil is so vigorous that they their hop utilization is better than they expected. They actually plan to dial back some of the bittering hops because of this!

It was an honor to be among the very first people to try their first 3 production-sized batches. I don’t recall a meeting where a series of beers from a brewer were so well received and “favorites” were so evenly split. First up was the Single Fin at 5.0%. This Belgian Style’s sessionability was not at the expense of a full flavor and aroma profile. A 5.5% Rye Beer called After Glow was up next. Even though the grain bill was about 20% rye [edit: it was only 10%], the rye was not over the top. Instead it seemed to create a dryness that was well balanced with the rest of the malt. Last was a 6.5% West Coast Style IPA called “Head High.” Another fantastic, well-balanced beer!

This might be a good time to mention that all three of these beers were VERY boldly hopped. All of them had well balanced — but distinct — hop flavors and aromas. According to Clay, they intend to keep things going in this direction by combining West Coast hopping schedules with East Coast styles and carving out a new style palette along the way.

If you missed the meeting, Kane’s tasting room should be open to the public in a week. Of course, check their blog for the latest news out of Kane and be sure to friend them on Facebook. Thanks, Dawn, for all the great pics!

October 2011 Group Brew – Traditional Porter

The PALE ALES are planning to hold a group brew event in October 2011 where all members would brew a traditional English porter. Several members have invested a lot of time and energy into this, and we are hoping that you will find this as exciting as we do! If you have a minute, please read over the information below and respond to this post to let us know if you are interested. Also, if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please post those as well. Unfortunately, you’ll have to register an account on this site first, it’s the only way we can effectively keep out spammers. Thanks!

A traditional porter varies in several ways from the modern porter described in the BJCP guidelines. As Clay Spence discussed at the Saison meeting, the main difference is that “brown malts” were used as the base malt. These malts were kilned more than pale malts. Because of the extra kilning, they do not yield as much fermentable sugar. So, Clay’s test batch (85% brown malt, 15% six-row) which some of us tasted at the Saison meeting had an original gravity of ~1.070, and a final gravity of ~1.040. The taste was very full bodied – even a bit like a milkshake. But, obviously it was not very high in alcohol. Al from East Coast Yeast did a batch also, and his came out a bit higher ABV. Ryan Hansen is experimenting with using brettanomyces bacteria to help the yeast convert more of the sugars.

To participate in the October 2011 group brew, members will choose from one of two options. The first option which we encourage everyone to try out is to malting the grains yourself! Several members, including Joe Bair, Marc Leckington, and Ryan have been experimenting with this and will provide instructions for how to malt-your-own! There are 5 steps: steeping, germinating, drying, kilning, and mellowing. The entire process takes approximately 24 days, so it is not for the weak and lazy among us. For those people (like myself), the second option is to order a mix of modern malts that approximates the traditional recipe. To find out more information about the malting process, check out the Princeton Homebrew Facebook page.

Another difference between this group brew and the recent Big Brew is that it won’t be a single event where everyone meets up together. Instead, there would be “satellite” brews where several members in a given area meet up at someone’s house and brew together. This is a great chance to expand your brewing skills and try something new!

POLL (respond by commenting on this post)

1. I am interested in the malt-your-own traditional porter recipe.
2. I am interested in the modern malt recipe.
3. I am not interested in or able to participate this time.

Princeton and Local Environs Ale and Lager Enthusiast Society